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Virginia Woolf :

The feminist harping on gender inequality and oppression

Adeline Virginia Stephen, better known in English literature as Virginia Woolf, was born in 1882 at Hyde Park Gate, Kensington in London.

Her father was Sir Leslie Stephen was a historian, author, a literary critic and mountaineer and her mother was Julia Prinsep Duckworth Stephen who maintained lingering associations with contemporary artists and painters who were in the habit of frequenting their residence.

Virginia Woolf was the third child of Leslie Stephen and Julia Duckworth Stephen and Virginia was provided education by private tutors according to the order of the Victorian era.

Degradation

Virginia's father's library, full of classical literature provided ample opportunities for her to mould a colourful and radiant literary career par excellence.


Virginia Woolf

According to the tradition of the day, her two brothers, Thoby and Adian were sent to Cambridge while she was never provided an opportunity to receive formal education. This degradation of women in a patriarchal society paved the way for this issue to be used as a major theme in her writings.

In year 1910 Woolf began her literary career by making her contributions to Times Literary Supplement and the Hogarth Press also facilitated her in publishing her work.

She had written over 500 essays and 10 novels portraying numerous themes relevant to humanity.

The Voyage Out was her first novel and later she wrote Night and Day (1919), Monday or Tuesday (1921), Jacob's Room (1922), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), A Room of One's Own, To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando and The Waves which are considered as her major works of literature.

Woolf, considered one of the most outspoken modernist writers of England in the 20th century portrayed gender inequality and oppression as the major themes of her works.

She exploited 'feminism' not only as an analysis of gender inequality and oppression but also as a political movement relevant to the denial of suffrage due to gender discrimination prevailed in England in the era.

A Room of One's Own (1929) could be considered as a thesis highlighting the theme of gender inequality and oppression .

It was based on a series of lectures Woolf delivered in various Institutions on education and women' s access to education, history of female writers and the lack of opportunities available to them during the era and also on lesbianism.

Once Virginia described herself as 'born into very communicative, literate, letter writing, and visitors articulate late-nineteenth century world.'

Referring to female writers she said, "But what I find deplorable, I continued, looking about the bookshelves again, is that nothing is known about women before the 18th century.'

Inequality

Gender education inequality prevailed in England during the Victorian age was identified by Woolf as women been treated as outsiders and she came to the limelight as a writer highlighting the theme of feminism in her writings. Male writers enjoyed all the privileges which were denied to female writers and during this period certain female writers were in the habit of writing under pen names whenever they wanted to get their work published.

Charlotte Bronte, Marian Evans and Aurore Dupin , Couuer Bell, George Elit, George Sand wrote under pen names.

"Women were shut out of libraries and universities in 1928 denying them a safe place to educate themselves. 'Virginia Woolf's reacted to the gender discrimination.

"Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind."

In A Room of One's Own referring to the total dependence of women on their husbands for money, Woolf said, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."

"In a patriarchal society men are in the control of money and the social and artistic life of women are controlled financially and emotionally by their husbands."

According to the underlying theme, A Room of One's Own is not merely portraying the lack of physical space but it conveys a deeper message instigating women to fight for their political and cultural rights denied to them.

Woolf was highly concerned over the fiction written by male writers expressing 'sexuality of women, female imagination and their talent and creativity.

"Indeed if women had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her as a person of the utmost importance , heroic and splendid and sound infinitely beautiful .... As great as the men."

There are numerous expressions in 'A Room of One's Own' implying the message Woolf conveying on the theme of feminism.

"Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size."

Referring to writing Woolf said, "Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends and then you do it for money."

"For most of history, Anonymous was a woman."

Literary critics vary in their analysis of the theme of A Room of One's Own'. Arnold Benett, an early 20th century British novelist, was of the opinion that it was simply a study of men and women.

Virginia Woolf had written a little about men and more about women.

But literary critic David Daiches analysed A Room of One's Own was based on feminism, the belief in securing equal rights and opportunities for women. Woolf's fiction To the Lighthouse is based on high modernism. The novel was centred on the characters of Ramsays and their visits to their summer home in the Hebrides on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in the years of 1910-1920.

In tune with the modernist tradition, Woolf did not pay much attention on its plot but made the reader to gather thoughts and observations of the characters.

In this novel, childhood emotions and adult relationships had been highlighted.

Parallelism can be observed in the behaviour of the characters in To the Lighthouse with that of Woolf's parents.

The theme of understanding and dealing with unresolved issues relevant to both parents and Virginia Woolf could be considered similar to the plot of this novel.

"Mrs. Dalloway which is one of the most popular novels written by Woolf deals on a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway belonged to a fictional aristocratic family.The plot of the novel revolves around the preparations for a party that she would host in the evening.

During her preparations Clarissa Dalloway went around London and she reminisced the days of her youth spent in Bourton and wondered about her choice of her husband.

One of the characters of Mrs. Dalloway Septimus Warren Smith, a war veteran who was suffering from deferred traumatic stress, committed suicide.

One of the themes of this novel is the treatment of mental ailments and depression caused by the first world war.

Virginia Woolf criticises the class structure that prevailed in the society as well in Mrs. Dalloway.

'The plot bears some similarity to the life of Woolf as she is also treated for her continuous mental derangements.

She was known to have suffered from numerous hallucinations and once she had also tried to commit suicide attempting to throw out of a window as Septimus Warren Smith in the novel Mrs. Dalloway.

The theme of homosexuality or the sexual orientation of Clarissa Dalloway was yet another theme of Mrs. Dalloway.

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